10 Best beaches in Kenya

written by
Olga Sitnitsa

updated 10.07.2023

Lapped by the Indian Ocean, and straddling the equator Kenya is a richly rewarding beach travel destination. With Mount Kenya rising above a magnificent landscape of forested hills, patchwork farms and wooded savanna, the country’s dramatic geography has a lot to offer. Read on to find out the best beaches in Kenya.

The information in this article is inspired by The Rough Guide to Kenya, your essential guide for visiting Kenya.

1. Diani Beach

Best for: ultimate beach break

One of the best beaches in Kenya - Diani Beach ought to fulfil most dreams about the archetypal palm-fringed paradise. The sand is soft and brilliantly white; the sea is turquoise and usually crystal-clear; the reef is a safe thirty-minute swim or a ten-minute boat ride away. Overhead, the coconut palms create pools of cool shade and keep up a perpetual slow sway as the breeze rustles through their fronds.

Find more accommodation options to stay near Diani Beach.

Diani Beach in Kenya © Shutterstock

Diani Beach in Kenya © Shutterstock

2. Shela Beach

Best beach in Kenya for soft white sands

If you want to spend all your time on the beach, staying in Shela is the obvious solution, and there’s an ever-growing range of quite stylish possibilities there, including one hostel where you can also camp.

Here you will find the beach of uninterrupted, empty sand flanked by high dunes. Founded by 17th-century refugees from Manda Island, Shela is also the site of a striking Friday Mosque built in 1829 and famed for its 18-metre minaret.

palm-trees-shela-beach-lamu-island-kenya-shutterstock_237986455

Shela Beach, Lamu island, Kenya © Shutterstock

3. Lamu Beach

Best for: secluded beach break

A usually deserted 12km sickle of white sand, backed by empty sand dunes, Lamu Beach is one of the best beaches in Kenya; you half-expect Robinson Crusoe to come striding out of the heat haze. Unprotected by a reef, the sea here has some motion to it, and it is one of the few places on the coast where, at certain times of the year, you can bodysurf.

Unfortunately, security can be an issue – women may find that wanderers along the beach can be a nuisance, muggings are not unheard of, and there have been incidents of rape. Stay within shouting distance of other sunbathers and preferably go to the beach in company.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Lamu.

Lamu beach in Kenya © Shutterstock

Lamu beach in Kenya © Shutterstock

4. Shanzu Beach

Best beach in Kenya for turtle watching

At the northern end of the stretch of coast between Mombasa Island and Mtwapa Creek, Shanzu Beach is dominated by exclusive (if not particularly upmarket) holiday clubs. However, It has a couple of other attractions, and it’s possible to swim even at fairly low tide, with very good snorkelling for much of the year.

Several parts of Shanzu Beach, notably at Serena Beach Hotel, are popular egg-laying sites for sea turtles. There are educational talks about these endangered marine reptiles at the hotel, where the ban on motorized watersports is enforced (much of this sea area is a marine national park).

Find accommodation options to stay in Shanzu.

Shanzu beach, north of Mombassa, Kenya © Shutterstock

Shanzu beach, north of Mombassa, Kenya © Shutterstock

5. Watamu Beach

Best for: diving

Watamu can at first sight seem a bit superficial, consisting simply of a small agglomeration of hotels, a strip of beachfront private homes, a compact village shaded by coconut trees, and the beach. There are good reasons to come here, however, including the superb marine park, some interesting wildlife initiatives, youthful nightlife and the beautiful Watamu beach itself.

Watamu Beach is one of the best beaches in Kenya for diving, with its coral outcrop islands within swimming distance of the hotel gardens. Although they mostly started as fishing and diving centres, many of the hotels are getting involved with community and environmental projects that channel tourist excursion money into the local economy.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Watamu.

Watamu Beach, northern of Kenya © Shutterstock

Watamu Beach, northern of Kenya © Shutterstock

6. Nyali Beach

Best for swimming

Nyali Beach is often crowded at weekends and holidays but, although fairly narrow, the sand is white and the palms offer some good shade. You can swim here until the tide is more than halfway out, but the high tide can almost cover the beach – which means, that bodyboarding is sometimes possible when the waves come in over the reef. The reef itself is a fair way out, and most people take a boat rather than try to swim.

Beach waves at the shores of Nyali Kenya © Shutterstock

Beach waves at the shores of Nyali, Kenya © Shutterstock

7. Tiwi Beach

Best for: budget travellers

The first real magnet on the coast south of Mombasa is Tiwi Beach, which lies a couple of kilometres east of the main road. One of the best beaches in Kenya for budget travellers having a bit of a splurge, Tiwi rates as a genuine tropical paradise and also attracts lots of Kenyan resident families down from Nairobi.

The reef lies just offshore, and there are good snorkelling opportunities at high tide, especially at the northern end. With the exception of the large Amani Tiwi Beach Resort at its southern end, Tiwi is still a cottage territory. In the dry season, you can walk to the south end of Tiwi Beach and wade across the Mwachema River to Diani Beach and the strange Kongo Mosque, right next to the Indian Ocean Beach Resort.

Tiwi Beach, Kenya © Shutterstock

Tiwi Beach, Kenya © Shutterstock

8. Galu Kinondo Beach

Best for: natural charm

Galu Kinondo Beach, otherwise known as Galu Beach, is one of the best beaches in Kenya with its lovely stretch of coastline located on the south coast, about 10 kilometres south of Diani Beach and 35 kilometres from Mombasa.

Galu Kinondo Beach, above all, attracts with its beauty and tranquillity and unlike more developed beaches, its unspoilt natural charm. Visitors can stroll along the shoreline or simply relax in the shade of a palm tree on the beach.

Find accommodation options to stay in Galu.

Galu - Kinondo beach, Kenya © Shutterstock

Galu - Kinondo beach, Kenya © Shutterstock

9. Kilifi Beach

Best for: cultural experiences

Kenya’s coastline was submerged in the recent geological past, resulting in the creation of the islands and drowned river valleys – the creeks – of today. Kilifi, a small but animated town, is on such a creek.

Kilifi Beach is characterised by soft golden sand and clear blue water. Unlike some of the more touristy beaches, Kilifi offers a more relaxed and unhurried holiday. In addition to the beach, the town has some attractions, such as the Mnarani ruins dating back to the 14th century.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Kilify.

kilifi-creek-kenya-shutterstock_1014987556

Kilifi creek, Kenya © Shutterstock

10. Chale Beach

Best for: exclusive beach holiday

Officially, the immediate ambit of the Tiwi-Diani holiday comes to an end at the speck of coral known as Chale Island, now the site of an exclusive lodge, The Sands at Chale Island. This is a stopover for boat trips at the south extreme of one of the best beaches in Kenya. Beyond that, down to the Tanzanian border at Vanga is what the Diani planners describe as a ‘remote area’ for longer excursions out of the beach hotels.

In 1994, the Diani-Chale Marine National Reserve was created to protect these fragile coral reefs, which incorporate 36 recognised diving sites.

Chale island in Kenya © Shutterstock

Chale island in Kenya © Shutterstock

Ready for a trip to the best beaches in Kenya? Check out the snapshot of The Rough Guide to Kenya.

If you prefer to plan and book your trip to Kenya without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.

We may earn commission from some of the external websites linked in this article, but this does not influence our editorial standards - we only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Olga Sitnitsa

written by
Olga Sitnitsa

updated 10.07.2023

Online editor at Rough Guides, specialising in travel content. Passionate about creating compelling stories and inspiring others to explore the world.

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